Introduction

Alcohol is a component of the diet that provides 7.1 kcal per gram and on average 5.6% of total dietary energy in the US. When consumed in moderation, alcoholic beverages protect against cardiovascular disease, but when alcohol is consumed in excess it can become an addictive drug with potential for displacement of beneficial components of the diet, damage to several organ systems including the liver, brain, and heart, and increased risk of several cancers. The consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol contributes to generalized malnutrition, with particular effects on the availability and metabolism of both water- and fat-soluble vitamins including folate, thiamine, pyridoxine, and vitamins A and D. All of the effects of alcoholism on nutritional status are magnified in the presence of alcoholic liver disease. This entry will address the benefits and risks of alcohol consumption and the effects of drinking alcohol on human nutritional status.

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